England International Boat Angler Steve Quinn on how to win matches with dogfish.Steve Quinn
Steve has been an England International Boat Angler for seven years. Next month he competes in his fourth World Championship.
The 38 year old Local Authority team Leader lives in Tranmere and spends most of his spare time fishing from boats and shore around North Wales and the north west of England.
There's a dogfish on its way into the boat and the tradition seems to be that the first angler gets the privilege to trumpet the event. Some days it's a welcome sound. The arrival of a pack of ""doggies"" frequently signals the start of the days fishing and a bit of action.On the other hand there are hundreds of lads who simply regard dogfish as the scourge of the sea.
But did you know that our LSD, Lesser-spotted Dogfish, Sandy Dog or Rough Hound (the name depends upon where you live and fish) is actually a shark!
Now, that small piece of information can almost make catching dogfish creditable.What most anglers have always known is that the dogfish is extremely common around the coast and lives over sandy, gravelly and muddy bottoms at various depths but mainly around 150 feet.
The other thing we all know is that they will eat anything dropped down on a hook from ragworm to old smelly squid and mackerel and they will take a bait at anchor or on the drift.
It's no wonder that the dogfish is often the first species hooked by beginners.The size of fish varies from area to area, and probably shoal to shoal, and most anglers would regard a 2-8-0 fish as a good size but they actually do grow to about 10lb - wouldn't that be something to talk about?
So let's be positive about LSD because they are present in areas where others species avoid and on bad weather days, when charter boats are forced inshore or to take cover, our humble friend and a few flatties might be the only thing about. They are also precious when match fishing because every bite is worth about 2lb. Or you might be stuck on a boat when the skipper won't move and there is nothing else to catch - so hone your ability by catching as many as possible.
Having accepted that any fool will catch a dogfish, what I'm suggesting is a way to exploit a pack and to catch as many as possible.
Fun fishing would amount to using a 12lb class rod, light line and maybe even a single small hook and simply enjoy the sport. It's an ideal approach when marooned on a boat that - for whatever reason - is going nowhere. But if the objective is to catch as many as possible in the shortest time, then I switch to stouter tackle capable of dealing quickly with three dogfish at a time.
I will switch over to at least a 30lb class rod and line to match, giving enough beef to hurry the fish through the water and into the boat. However, the business end of the tackle is the real key to making real inroads into a feeding shoal and maybe landing more than 100 fish in a session.
In a sense I'm talking about speed-fishing, though speed doesn't come from trying to be fast, it comes from having a smooth fishing pattern and that comes from planning and preparation.
So first of all I use long-shanked hooks and either snip the barb off or press it down flat. For this sort of work size 1/0 and 2/0 are best and they need to be medium wire patterns because of the amount pressure they'll be under during the day. The long shank is important when it comes to unhooking three fish at a time.
Every specialist dogfish angler (if anybody will admit to that) will have a preferred trace and in South Wales I have seen very long tubing rigs used effectively. Mine is a more simple and will certainly suit anglers who want to make a few and tuck them away in the bottom of the tackle box for that day when the doggies are snooing across the sea bed.
My aim is to drop the trace to the bottom and wait until there are two or three fish on the hooks.
The main trace is five feet of 120lb commercial nylon carrying three hooks and the reasoning is to create a rigid trace that is less likely to tangle and which I can nail to the sea bed. Dogfish are notorious for picking up a bait then mooching about on the sea bed and taking a second bait; we've all suffered that experience and often the second bait is somebody else's. But this trace is so stiff it reduces the chance of that happening and has another purpose in attracting dogfish.
I believe that a when a dogfish comes along and takes the bait, it chomps away and then will decide it has had enough and goes to swim off. At this stage it will move the trace across the bottom and actually attract the interest of its mates - and then I can end up with three fish at a time!
Initially the natural reaction is to feel a bite and to strike, but to get ""double-headers"" or three fish, the rig needs to be left alone until you are convinced the hooks are full.My three hooks are spaced evenly along the trace and two are on eight inch snoods and each snood carries three yellow beads (it works for me, as they say). This spread, with the rigidity of the trace, tends to stop fish taking two baits and prevents tangles.
Mackerel and sandeels are definitely the top dogfish baits. Sometimes older mackerel that is going off can work best of all because there is a distinct odour and bits of the flesh of the fish are braking away and flowing down the tide.
It is important when competition fishing to look for some sort of advantage and so rigs have been developed to include muppets on baited hooks, lines of multi-coloured beads and strong bait additives.
They are complications as far as I'm concerned and I will be hoping to catch fish on the simplest rig possible, but at the same time keeping my eye on things to see how others anglers in the boat are catching - and then I'll change.
Alwyne Wheeler's ""The Fishes of the British Isles and North-West Europe"" is the standard work for identifying the marine and freshwater fish around Northern Europe.And if he says dogfish are shark that should be good enough for anybody and he groups them as Dogfishes and True Sharks and goes on to say: ""This large and diverse sub-order of sharks contains most of the well-known large oceanic sharks, and many familiar small species such as the dogfishes. The family of small sharks includes the best-known European sharks, the dogfishes"".
Steve Quinn lives in Tranmere, Wirral, where he developed his boat angling skills from charter boats sailing and fishing in Liverpool Bay.
The Irish Sea off the Merseyside and North Wales coast is shallow and most of the time fishing is into depths ranging from 60 to 120 feet - the perfect ground for dogfish.
He has spent many match days catching nothing else but doggies and on those occasions the unmistakable ""nod-nod"" on the rod tip has been welcome.
Last October Steve - a 35 year old Team Leader with Wirral Borough Council - fished for England in the World Charter Boat Championships in Slovenia.
The team didn't do well and hadn't mastered the Mediterranean small-fish style of fishing and Steve would have paid a lot of money for a dogfish bite on any one of the days.
""I'll never again damn a doggy"", he said. ""And when I look back over the years they have been very good to me in local competitions and have pulled me out of the mire more than once"".